Dreaming of a quarantini and fun Zoom party? Make it simple with these easy virtual drinks tips for your coronavirus party.
Why you need a Zoom party
We all need human interaction and there is no need to give it up entirely when you can chat visually with a quarantini and virtual drinks.
For the effervescent Lyndey Milan, surviving two weeks of social isolation in a hotel room after returning to Australia really honed her virtual communications skills. Lyndey, who has been a food and cooking media personality for over 30 years, shared what is it like to be in lockdown on her daily diary on Facebook and Instagram. or her written diary here.
Lyndey has also provided two easy recipes that are ideal for your coronavirus party nibbles – flip to the end for tasty Zucchini, dill and mint fritters or Churrasco Prawns with Aji Sauce.
“Everyone in Australia is in some sort of isolation, or should be,” says Lyndey.
“Me? I am in total lockdown, forced lockdown in a hotel. I can only dream of cooking. Now that I am close to release, I am fantasising about what I might cook when I get out?
“I know it might be hard to buy ingredients but local greengrocers are open so I chose zucchini fritters. They are inexpensive, easy to make, vegetarian and delicious. Then, who doesn’t love prawns – and with the aje sauce (like a Peruvian nam jim) will satisfy my longing for spice. All I have to do is dial in a friend or two and make a party of it.”
Now mix up that quarantini and let’s get this coronavirus party started!
Photo above by Kerry Heaney
Which platform to use?
There are many ways to chat to your friends virtually but these are the top four digital party methods for a quarantini filled coronavirus party.
Pros: You can talk visually to just about anyone using Facetime on a mobile phone and have a virtual drinks party. This is great for people who don’t or won’t use a social platform, and it is easy for them to navigate because it’s video phone call.
Cons: It’s hard to get all members of large group on at the same time. Try asking couples to share one phone. It also zooms in and out as people talk – that gave me a headache!
Pros: Many people have Facebook and access to Messenger. Simply create a group call for your happy hour hangout and turn on video and you’ve got your digital party underway. Add a virtual hat or mask to your profile face and hide that bad hair or no-make up look. #facewine anyone?
Cons: The strength of individual internet connections influences how easy it is for guests to join and stay in virtual party. I have found it works for up to eight people.
Pros: Download the app and set it up for access to your coronavirus party. It’s a fairly simple set up but seems to want to link to Facebook, although friends tell me this is not essential. There are some cool games that you can play with friends and it gets quite social and will definitely be a multiple quarantini session.
Cons: The technologically challenged find this one hard and may not come to the digital party. There are still limits on how many people can attend your virtual happy hour hangout.
Pros: Zoom leads the virtual drinks party popularity list because it seems to be the most stable platform. Many people can join a Zoom hangout, but you do have to download and set up the program first. A hidden bonus – Zoom has a setting that uses a soft filter that makes you look just a bit better than isolation might have you feeling even before a few quarantinis. If you’re using Zoom on mobile, go into Settings and scroll down (to about the third bottom setting) and turn the toggle on. On laptop, once you’re in the coronavirus party, go into Video Settings and put a tick beside “touch up my appearance”.
How to change your background on Zoom – Desktop App
- Download your favourite New York or Australian background images from www.Australia.com/Zoom and save to your computer.
- Log into your Zoom account. Open your “Account Settings” (gear-wheel symbol) in the top right hand corner.
- Select “Virtual Background”.
- Select “+” (plus symbol button) to upload the photo of your choice and you are ready to go!
- If your digital party is already in progress – find the pop-up menu next to the “Stop Video” option at the bottom of the video window and select “Choose Virtual Background”. This will take you straight to your virtual background settings. Select the backdrop of your choice and you are ready to go!
Cons: The free version of Zoom has a time limit of 40 minutes, although I have seen that automatically extended.
Got your quarantini in hand now?
Photo above by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash
Top tips for a Zoom party
Have a practice first
You’ll want to sound as though you are all over this new quarantini and happy hour thing and the best way to do that is to have a practice first. Download the app and get a friend to talk to for the first session. It’s just like riding a bike, seriously!
About an hour will do it
I’m getting used to talking virtually with my friends and it seems that an hour is a good length for a coronavirus party. After that, the digital party seems to get a bit old.
Hold the phone still
If you are sitting in front of your computer there is no problem. Using a handheld phone might work for you, but the people watching these virtual drinks are going to get giddy. Also that upwards angle is not flattering (more tips below on looking your best on-screen).
I really recommend using earphones or ear pods (like those that came with your phone) that have a built-in microphone. It is essential when not everyone in the house is joining the happy hour hangout. It also makes your voice clearer and blocks out the background noise at least a bit.
Use the mute button
Find the mute button and use it if you are doing anything other than sitting and talking during virtual drinks. Background noise like chewing and crunching is not pretty folks.
Who talks first?
When virtual drinks hots up many people might want to talk at the same time. Who gets the floor or in this case, screen? Rule #1 hold up your quarantini, wine glass, beer glass or cocktail glass, It’s the new talking stick.
Look your best on-screen.
Here are four steps that will help you look good on camera according to New Yorker Tom Ford. If you want to take the focus of your face, use one of the Tourism Australia backdrops in Zoom. See how it works in the Zoom party tips above.
Don’t forget that you are on a video call
With so much going on it is easy to forget that you are visible to everyone on a video call even when you are not talking. This is what happens when someone forgets they are on a video call.
It may not run smoothly
Technology is not perfect and there are bound to be times when your coronavirus party is invaded by technical glitches. Don’t worry about it, this happens all the time. Just have another quarantini.
What’s a virtual drinks party without food?
I have partnered with the wonderful Lyndey Milan to bring you two easy eating, bite-sized recipes for your virtual drinks party.
Try these Churrasco Prawns with Aji Sauce or Zuchinni Fritters and your happy hour hangout will be even happier!
Churrasco Prawns with Aji Sauce
Serves 4 as an appetiser
Preparation 15 minutes
Cooking 5 minutes
Churrasco is a Brazilian word meaning ‘barbecued’ or ‘grilled on skewers’. Although often served with chimichurri sauce – a lovely herby sauce with garlic, oregano and red wine vinegar – I’ve chosen the lesser known aji sauce from Peru – a sweet onion and jalapeño combination that is a little like a South American version of Thai nam jim dipping sauce. It also goes well with empanadas, grilled meats and seafood.
- 4 green jalapeño chillies, seeded
- 3 spring onions, roughly sliced
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped coriander stems and leaves
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 kg large green prawns, heads removed and peeled, tails intact
- wooden skewers, soaked in cold water or placed in the freezer for 30 minutes
- green salad, to serve (optional)
For the aji sauce, place the jalapeños, spring onions and coriander in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the red wine vinegar, zest, juice and oil and continue to process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
For the prawns, insert a wooden skewer at the tail and push through the length of the prawn. Brush the prawns with oil and cook on a preheated barbecue or chargrill pan for 2 minutes each side or until cooked through. Serve with the aji sauce and salad leaves, if desired.
Wine: White wine lovers can try sauvignon blanc, but for red wine try a malbec, the premium grape variety of South America.
Recipe from Best TV Chef Book in the World at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia (Hardie Grant 2014).
Zucchini, dill and mint fritters
Kolokithókeftedes may aníthos kai diósmo
Makes approximately 15
Preparation time 10 minutes + 30 minutes standing time
Cooking time 15 – 20 minutes
Vegetable fritters are very popular and may be battered and deep-fried. However, I find this method is more subtle and allows the full flavour of the zucchini and herbs to come out.
- 500g (about 4 medium) zucchini (courgette)
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 small red onion, very finely chopped
- Half bunch dill, finely chopped
- Half bunch of mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- ½ cup (50g) plain flour
- ½ cup (40g) grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Ground pepper
- About 1 cup (250ml) Greek extra virgin olive oil, for shallow frying
- Lemon wedges, to serve
Coarsely grate zucchini, combine with salt, place in a colander and stand for 30 minutes. Drain zucchini, place in a clean tea towel or on kitchen paper and squeeze to remove excess water.
Combine the zucchini, onion, herbs, flour, cheese and egg, mix well.
Heat the oil in a large, frying pan over a medium heat. Form heaped tablespoons of mixture into small patties and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through. Drain fritters on kitchen paper. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges on the side.
Lyndey’s note: Kefalotyri cheese is a hard sheep’s milk cheese, with a sharp aroma and rich salty taste, much like the Italian style pecorino cheese. It’s a versatile cheese, good for grating, baking or just nibbling.
Recipe from Lyndey & Blair’s Taste of Greece cookbook and TV series.
After your virtual drinks party
Feeling like chilling after your friends have gone ‘home’ from your digital party? Make another quarantini and be an armchair traveller with this amazing selection of travel videos, or pick a classic Australian movie to watch. Social distancing never looked so good than from your own comfy couch in front of the television.